With news still fresh in our minds that Prince Harry and his wife Meghan are expecting their first child, today we look back to another royal birth which delivered unexpected drama.
Celebrating her 15th birthday today is Lady Louise Windsor, the eldest child and only daughter of Prince Edward and his wife Sophie, and the youngest granddaughter of the Queen and Prince Philip.
Her birth, which came a month prematurely on November 8th, 2003, was a high anxiety affair, involving a blue-light dash to hospital for her mother and a late-night emergency delivery by Caesarean section. Her father, Prince Edward, was out of the country on an official visit to Mauritius, which he cut short to fly home to be with his wife and their first baby.
The couple (officially the Earl and Countess of Wessex) previously endured heartbreak with a miscarriage in December 2001, when Sophie had to be airlifted to hospital after suffering an ectopic pregnancy. Thankfully, despite the drama surrounding the birth of their first child, both mother and daughter would make a full recovery.
It started when Sophie, then 38, called an ambulance after being taken ill with cramps at the couple’s home in Bagshot Park, Surrey. An embarrassing mix-up at the Surrey Police control room meant police cars were sent to escort the ambulance, but not the ambulance itself, resulting in a 30-minute delay before the error was rectified. The force later made a public apology and the duty inspector in charge of the control room was temporarily transferred to a different role.
The ambulance, when it came, took Sophie to the nearby Frimley Park Hospital, where it was found that the placenta had separated too early, causing severe blood loss to both mother and baby. It required an immediate emergency Caesarean section delivery at 11-30pm, which went well. Although apparently healthy, the new-born baby weighed just 4lbs 9oz and, as a precaution, was transferred to the neo-natal unit at St George’s Hospital, in London.
Prince Edward arrived back in London the following evening and first visited his wife, still recovering at Frimley Park, and then their baby. It would be six days before mother and daughter were reunited. Sophie left hospital on November 19th, 11 days after the traumatic birth, and her daughter was allowed home four days later.
Her full name was publicly announced on November 27th as Louise Alice Elizabeth Mary Mountbatten-Windsor. It had previously been announced, when Prince Edward and Sophie married in 1999, that their children would not be titled as ‘prince’ or ‘princess’ to shield them from media attention. Instead their daughter would be titled Lady Louise Windsor.
Four years later, in December 2007, she gained a baby brother with the birth of James (Viscount Severn). He was also delivered by Caesarean section, but this time it was planned and described by Prince Edward as “a lot calmer than last time”. Now 10, he is the youngest grandchild of the Queen and Prince Philip.
In early 2015, Lady Louise and her brother took part in their first overseas royal engagement, accompanying their parents on an official visit to South Africa. Lady Louise learnt to ride at a young age and in 2016 accompanied her father on horseback for the Queen’s 90th birthday parade. She has also taken up carriage driving, a sport of which her grandfather, Prince Philip, is a renowned enthusiast.
While remaining one of the lower-profile members of the royal family, Lady Louise has recently been pictured at several royal events, including the weddings this year of her cousins Prince Harry and Princess Eugenie.